American Express: Sapan Shah

1215 Views, Posted on: July 18, 2015

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sapan dp

I’m waiting on the results of a code that is running in the background as I start typing. To sum the next couple hundred words up, American Express is all about data (that is what they hire IITians for, anyway). The profile we are allotted at the company involves data analysis and manipulation, as well as statistical modeling.

The Company

American Express (AmEx from here onwards) specializes in all kinds of financial services, with the flagship product being credit cards for premium customers. Typically, the card transaction system has three stakeholders, i.e. the issuer (the bank issuing cards, e.g. ICICI, SBI), the acquirer (the bank enabling merchants to accept these cards, e.g. Axis Bank, HDFC) and the network (the environment in which the transaction occurs, e.g. VISA, MasterCard). AmEx is one of the only two corporations in the world that functions in all three roles, hereby completing a closed loop. This gives it a competitive advantage in terms of sheer scope of data it possesses, about both the consumers and the merchants.

All of the UG interns here are working on various projects with teams within the RIM CoE, i.e. Risk and Information Management Centre of Excellence. The teams specialize in various aspects, ranging from analyzing sales and encashments of travelers’ cheques to setting up models to predict default among customers.

Fellow interns at AmEx

Fellow interns at AmEx

Getting In

AmEx expanded its WINGS internship program for the first time for Indian UG students this year, and as a result the company was a black box with ‘Risk Analyst’ as a job profile on the PT Cell interface. However, the pre-placement talk painted a clear picture about the kind of projects they had in store for us. I learnt to my relief that AmEx did not expect its interns to be well-versed with concepts of finance and economics. Besides offering a profile that involved a process similar to what I had done on a project at IIM-A last summer, the perks were impressive, to say the least.

Shortlisting of the applicants was done prior to the PPT, based on the resume and department standings. This was followed by an interview about 30 minutes long where they expected us to answer basic questions about credit cards and payments.

I was also asked in detail about the aforementioned project, along with the underlying concepts of regression, RDBMS and the like. It was a one-on-one casual interview, more of a discussion than a one-way Q&A. (The fact that the interviewer was a Hostel-7 alumnus had nothing to do with my candidacy, I swear).

The Workplace

Contrary to what I had expected, i.e. a veritable machinery of strictly defined work hours and rigid timelines, the environment and the culture here is very relaxed, and not just so for the interns. A substantial proportion of the employees are IITians, and our clan has a heartening tendency of getting newbies (here, interns) comfortably settled in.

Typical shifts are 8.5 hours long, and start in the afternoons on Mondays through Wednesdays, while in the morning otherwise (this opens up the weekend substantially). There is an observable shift in the atmosphere as the weekend approaches, as Thursdays and Fridays are not only for casual dressing but also for light workload and team lunch treats.

All teams that the interns are a part of have fairly independent functions. Halfway through the project, a midterm review is scheduled, which is a formal presentation with the people higher up. The final review at the time of conclusion will be an even more involved process, with an extended panel and an airtight set of requirements.

My team (L to R): Hitesh, Paras, Deepthi and me

My team (L to R): Hitesh, Paras, Deepthi and me

The North Remembers

While Gurgaon is hardly a place I’d write even a full sentence about, the proximity to Delhi is its appeal for matters of leisure. But, the city is an expanding hub of employment in India and will hopefully develop into more than just a concrete jungle of corporate buildings. The metro network is extremely efficient, by virtue of being privatized.

Unrelated, I’d rather face 10 rejections from autos in Bombay than ride in an auto in Gurgaon.

#WDYLT: What Did You Learn Today?

Even after being taught CS101 by Prof. Phatak, coding is something that has evaded and terrified me. As a part of the WINGS program, we were expected to take mandatory SAS and SQL trainings online, as most of the data analysis is done on the same.

While SQL is easy to understand and practice, SAS was intimidating. But my roommate has always said, ‘Google is your only friend,’ and hence the steep slope of SAS was done away with. I realized there is still hope for code-phobic souls like me, provided one can grasp the underlying logic.

Also, PowerPoint presentations are called ‘decks’ and not PPTs. Although there is no word for the subtle but condescending look you get from colleagues when you call them the latter.

To wrap it up, AmEx is quite the internship experience, both in the field of data analysis and as an insight into the way the corporate world functions. I do believe the internship has provided me the benefit of evaluating additional options and lent me the wisdom to make a more informed choice for my career path.

P.S.: Note to Sophomores – The sophomores who joined us at AmEx were a part of a different program called Nurture. Apart from the kind of projects we worked on, their experience differed greatly from ours. While you may have read this for reference, the induction procedure for sophomores is going to be different from what I have mentioned.

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